NOTE: some of the images in this article are disturbing.
California Republicans ejected U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Little from their state convention in San Diego on Saturday. The self-described “white advocate”—whose campaign slogan is “Liberate the U.S. from the Jewish oligarchy”—calls Hitler “one of the greatest leaders in history.” The GOP condemns “anti-Semitism and any other form of religious bigotry,” GOP spokesperson Matt Fleming told CBS News.
However, explicitly expressed bigotry against the transgender community, as well as the promotion of white supremacy in the Official Voter Information Guide distributed by the California Sec. of State’s (SOS) office is protected as free speech.
“Candidates running for the United States Senate may purchase space for a 250-word candidate statement in the state Voter Information Guide. The statement may not make any reference to any opponent of the candidate. (Elections Code sections 9084(i) and 13308.),” the SOS website says, presumably allowing less well-funded candidates to get their message out.
Candidates’ statements can thus also serve as cheap publicity for hate, with roughly 19 million voters reviewing the official SOS Voters Guide for the June 5 primary. Lest LGBT Californians forget, the now-blue progressive state was once home to a slew of white supremacist groups such as the KKK and Tom Metzger’s White Aryan Resistance (which in the late 1980s tried to burn down the Orange County-based law firm of John Duran and Joel Loquvam). The Orange County Register reported last February that in its annual Hate and Extremism Report, the Southern Poverty Law Center counted 954 hate groups nationally — including 75 in California, with 38 identified in Southern California.
Vote-by-mail starts Monday, May 7, and while Grundmann may not have a real chance to go up against Sen. Dianne Feinstein in November—this message and the promotion of his hate website will no doubt be read by millions of Californians:
The candidate’s website leads to images espousing hate toward trans people, African Americans, and even calls out gay columnist Dan Savage by name. Here’s a sampling of what’s on Grundmann’s official campaign website:
Jesse Melgar, the out Deputy Secretary of State and Chief Communications Officer for LGBT ally SOS Alex Padilla’s office, says the SOS finds the statements “offensive” but bigoted statements are covered by the First Amendment and that the SOS is ministerial when it comes to elections. Additionally, no one came forward during the public comment period to challenge the statements.
“Thank you for sharing your concerns about the candidate statement of Don J. Grundman printed in the California Voter Information Guide (VIG) for the June 5, 2018, Statewide Direct Primary Election,” Melgar wrote the Los Angeles Blade in an email Monday.
“The candidate statements provided in the VIG are voluntarily submitted and paid for by the candidates in accordance with Elections Code Section 9080 and Government CodeSection 85601. The Secretary of State’s role in the production of the VIG is ministerial. Pursuant to statute, a candidate has the opportunity to purchase a statement of up to 250 words if they have accepted voluntary campaign finance spending limits. The only statutory restriction regarding the text of the statement is that they may not reference any opposing candidate and the Secretary of State does not otherwise have the authority to reject or edit candidate statements.”
However, Melgar continues, “pursuant to Elections Code Section 9092, the Secretary of State is required to make all contents of the guide available for public examination for a period of 20 days prior to printing the VIG. During this public examination period, any elector may seek a writ of mandate in the Sacramento Superior Court requiring information in the VIG be amended or deleted, if the copy in question is proven to be false, misleading, or inconsistent with the requirements of the Elections Code or specified sections of the Government Code. No such writ was sought or issued during this public display period which occurred February 20 through March 12, 2018.
“While our office finds the content of this submission offensive,” Melgar says, “the United States Supreme Court has found on different occasions that political speech is a protected form of speech and my office does not have the constitutional ability to alter, deny, or remove candidate statements submitted in accordance with law nor the ability to change the law. You may wish to contact your State Senator or Assembly member to determine if changes to the law may be warranted and allowable.”
Out Assembly member Evan Low tells the LA Blade: “As chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, I am deeply saddened to see that views like these are still held by members of our society. However, it is Mr. Grundmann’s first amendment right to express these views, no matter how hateful or bigoted they may be.”
“Mr. Grundmann’s transphobic, racist statement and website prove that opponents of equality are alive and well here in California,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “The best way to send a message that we don’t accept his vile bigotry is for LGBTQ Californians and our allies to get out and vote for pro-equality champions who will fight for our community. We look forward to that happening — and to the end of Mr. Grundmann’s sad, irrelevant campaign.”
The missed opportunity to challenge the bigotry in the candidate’s statement raises another question: how can the public comment period provided by the Sec. of State be useful or effective if no one knows about It?